The Dean's Blog
I have been reading with interest the responses to the recent controversy around the University of Regina's decision to become part of the "Project Hero" scholarship program. What I find particularly troubling is the response by some to brand the University, mostly in a negative way, based on the position taken by a group of professors. Ascribing characteristics to a totalilty based on an experience with a small sample is part of human behaviour that leads to intolerance and bigotry. What is valuable about a university in our society is that the university is pluralistic in nature, being home to a diverse array of opinions on a variety of important societal issues, which leads to constructive debate and discourse that allows us to understand our world and those that live in it. A good university is home to those diverse opinions and the University of Regina is a good university. Do I agree with the position taken by the 16 professors about Project Hero? No, I do not, but I definitely want to hear their opinion and try to understand why they believe as they do. This in turn helps me to understand my beliefs and values, increases my knowledge base, and hopefully makes me a better person who can be more effective in fulfilling my role in this world. Do all faculty members at the University of Regina believe as this group of professors does? Absolutely not! If you spend some time talking with the faculty and staff at the University you will get opinions that range from supportuve for the Project Hope program to identifying concerns with the program and everything else in between.
It is this range of opinion that makes the university such an important part of our society and good place for our children (and us) to be. By being part of the university, you quickly learn that the world is not a place of black and white, but rather a broad array of colours - and even within each colour, a multiple of hues. By gaining this knowledge, and exposing ourselves to a variety of thoughts, values, and beliefs, we are able to build understanding, knowledge, and patience, and progress towards a better society for all.
Well - almost halfway through the Olympic Games in Vancouver, which is probably a good thing for me as I am a dedicated Olympics fan, watching the shows late into the evening and finding even less sleep than normal. Next to watching our Cougar athletes and March Madness, the Olympics is my favourite sporting event to follow. Although I am aware that professional athletes participate in the Olympics, that many of the "amateur" Olympic athletes make significant sums of money, and that winning an Olympic gold medal certainly brings the opportunity for wealth, there is something purely intoxicating and invigorating about the passion Olympic athletes bring to their competition. It is hard to put a finger on it, but when you see the passion and emotion exibited during competition by the Olympic athletes, this is about far more than just money and fame. This is about pushing yourself, testing the limits of human capability, and striving to be the best you can possibly be. You can see this by not watching those that win the gold medal, but those that do not. There have been countless examples at this Olympics already where those that did not win demonstrate themselves to be true Olympians - those that understand that it is in the struggle to achieve that true victories emerge.
This is why I am continually frustrated by the media's attempts to turn the Olympics into some big between nation competition for some mythical world superiority prize. No nation "wins" the Olympics. Pierre de Coubertin established the Olympics, based on the ideals of the Ancient Olympics, to be a contest among indivduals, to be a place where we test the human spirit and push the boundaries of our capabilities, to be a place where the world comes together not to establish national superiority but in fact to break down the boundaries we set among the people of the world. There is a reason most of the sports at the Olympics are individual sports - and it is in those sports that I find the true Olympic spirit shines brightest!
After considerable effort, we have overcome the bugs in the system and have the blog working again. Seems I have been writing blogs that have been posted to the Ethernet – somewhere out there in space!!
I have been thinking about money of late – and not just because it is budget time around the University. The Winter Olympics, with the enormous price tag, are about to kick-off. I just read that Charlie Sheen, the star of the television show “Two and a Half Men” makes $800,000 per episode. I think it was last year Tiger Woods became the first athlete to pass the $1 billion earning plateau. We are constantly bombarded with quotes from professional athletes who feel “disrespected” by an offer of only $5 million salary for the upcoming year. I listen and read about these incredible sums of money being made available to entertainers and professional athletes at the same time universities are struggling financially, where the need for painful cuts that will have a serious impact on programming is occurring. This does lead me to think about our priorities and values, and concern for what we believe is important in our world.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love watching sports, and I enjoy going to movies and concerts. I have a great appreciation for the skill and ability of those who entertain us, and I do believe there is value in these activities. With responsibility for the University’s athletic program, I believe the money spent here is money well spent. The distraction offered by athletics and entertainment are useful to us and either take us away for a relieving break, or provide opportunities to think about the world around us but I do wonder what the real value is. Grantland Rice once called sports the “toy department of life” but the money we spend on sports make it seem more like the fine china section. I recently visited Phoenix and had planned on taking in some professional sport games until I discovered the cost of attending. I really had to think if watching a physical gifted group of individuals who seem to generally have a great under appreciation of the privilege their physical skills have given them was worth the cost of attending. I chose to go golfing instead, and think I got more out of my four hours on the golf course than I would have in two hours at a game – and the cost was much less!
So what is my point? I believe we have overvalued the entertainment side of life, especially when it comes to professional sport. Let’s figure out a way to reduce the value but still keep it as an option. In my naïve economic sense, what if we reduced everything about professional sports in half for a start? That is, reduce cost of a ticket by half, the price of the hot dog, the souvenirs and, yes, the salaries of all involved? So the star quarterback will not make $10 million this year but I am sure they can make do on $5 million. At least, I think you can live on $5 million. Maybe I should ask the University if they would let me try…
Wow - it has been a long time since posting my first blog! I am going to have to find a way of scheduling a regular writing time to keep this going.
A big issue that is confronting all of us in the kinesiology and health studies field is childhood obesity. Some very shocking data is starting to emerge, including the fact that this generation of kids will be the first to have a reduced life span and generally be less healthy than their parents. The Saskatchewan supplement to the Active Healthy Kids Canada report card indicates that only 15% of all Saskatchewan children participate in enough physical activity to live a healthy life. And what is really frightening is that this statistic is above average for Canada! Saskatchewan in motion has a saying - "We are not okay with this" - and the question must be asked - are you?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and solving the youth obesity epidemic is not a complex issue. The key is to eat well and be physically active. With eating well, I have always liked the advice I heard from a nutritionist. Follow the 70/30 rule - that is, try to eat a healthy, balanced diet 70% of the time. The logic is that no one is perfect, so if you occasionally slip and enjoy a donut or have an ice cream cone don't sweat it. Just make sure that the slips are a minor part of your overall eating habits!
For physical activity, the rule is to be active for 90 minutes a day. The type of physical activity is not important - it can be organized fitness and sport programs, informal play, walking the dog, taking the stairs at work - anything that raises your heart rate. When applying this to children, I really like the Saskatchewan in motion suggestion - using the 30/30/30 approach which asks the schools, the community, and the family to provide 30 minutes of activity each which relieves any one of the need to encourage and provide the full 90 minutes. One thing to remember though - the need is to be physically active for 30 minutes within each setting. 30 minutes of physical education at school does not always equal 30 minutes of activity. Nor does spending 2 hours at a sport team practice mean you're physically active for 2 hours. Studies have indicated that during a practice typically an athlete is only active for a small percentage of the time spent at the practice. What is needed is a true engagement in physical activity for the required time that raises the heart rate above normal levels.
Childhood obesity is a serious problem - probably the most serious problem of the current generation of children. It is time for everyone to recognize this and be part of the solution.
June 22, 2009
Welcome to my first blog. I am new at this so not sure how this will work - I hope you will find what I have to say interesting, or at least informative. I am planning on get to this on a regular basis, but will make no promises!
One thing I am often asked is "what can I do with a kinesiology degree?" Sometimes it is not easy to answer that question as the answer is almost "what can't I do?". A degree in kinesiology is quite flexible and opens many doors to the person who holds the degree. It works as an outstanding "pre-professional" degree for students who are thinking of moving on to other professions, such as medicine, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, teaching, and a number of other professional areas. But the kin degree also works very well as a professional degree - enabling the holder of the degree, without further training, to develop a career in therapy (exercise therapy, therapeutic recreation), sport and recreation administration, coaching, community physical activity leadership roles, fitness and wellness, and working in adapted physical activity organizations (such as Special Olympics). There is also the opportunity to pursue graduate education in kinesiology following the undergraduate degree, which opens a number of more possiblilites. Among the undergraduate degrees that can be pursued, the kin degree is one of the more valuable and flexible degrees available.